Organizing in the New Year

It's a sick obsession, but I can't help it! Nothing makes me happier than sitting down with a brand new planner, a brand new pack of pens, and filling all of those lovely white spaces with birthdays, anniversaries, school events, meetings, vacations, and dentist appointments : )

This year I got a little crazy and splurged on my first Erin Condren life planner. So far I am loving it (obviously the stickers for birthdays, appointments, etc. increase my joy!)

It's probably embarrassing how many things I have personalized now (iPhone case, ipad cover, life planner). People are probably going to start thinking that I don't know how to write my own name, and need a constant source of reference. 
No new planner is complete without a new pack of pens to go with it! I awkwardly stood in the pen aisle at Staples for a little too long, scanning barcodes on packs of pens and looking up their Amazon reviews.  I settled on these beauties:

Being left handed can be a challenge when shopping for pens, but these ones don't smear, and their color is very vibrant and strong.  The reviews also say the ink lasts for a long time as well.

Another part of my new year's planning, is calendar sheets that I post on my fridge through out the year that contain my meal plans for the week.  I just created my 2014 calendar set and I'm ready to start trying out all of those new recipes I have pinned from Pinterest. If you would like a free copy of this calendar click on the link below!


Bee Bulletin Board and a Freebie!

Hi everyone,

    I wanted to share with you another bulletin board that we did the first week of school.  I teach in a Catholic school, and one of our bulletin boards always has a religious theme.  To start out the year we began with our "We BEElong to Jesus board."

If you are at a public school, you could easily change this to We BEElong in kindergarten, etc. : )
Once again, I am not very crafty, so I made the bee template on the computer and copied it onto construction paper. 

The only thing that I did not make a template for was the black lines on the bee.  I gave the students strips of black paper, and they cut them according to the size they needed for their bee.  I think they turned out great!

If you would like the bee template, just click on the link below.



Owl Bulletin Board and a freebie!

Hi everyone!

   Well, the first week of school has come and gone, and now that I am almost done with my second week I can tell that I have a really awesome class this year!  They are really great listeners, and are very caring individuals.
    Last week we worked on jazzing up our bulletin boards for back to school night.  The first project that we did was an adorable owl craft.

 I saw a cute idea like this on pinterest, and decided to make a template for it.  I am not a very creative person, and free form drawing is not my strong suit.  I worked in power point to manipulate the shapes the way I wanted the owls to be in (with a little help from my husband). 

I pre-cut the owl bodies out of scrap book paper, but you could easily have the students cut out the owl shapes themselves.

Here are the free templates for these adorable owls:




Pinterest Inspired

Hi everyone!

   I just finished my first week of school, and I have to say that I am loving the fact that I only have 15 students!!!  I normally have 28-30, so this is a huge change, the classroom is so quiet! 
   Before school started I asked my husband to help me with a pinterest project.  I think most of us have seen this adorable back to school wreath:
   I found some rulers at Walmart that were fifty cents each, so I grabbed 10 of those.  I then went to Michael's, and found the black center piece, but no apple : (  What I did find was a cute wooden bee.  I figured bee's were back to schoolish, and since I am Mrs. B, I figured it would work too : )  We also decided on blue, glittery ribbon, that we thought would go a little better with the bee, and my classroom colors.
   My husband borrowed the chop saw from my parents, and got to work.  He cut some at the 6 inch length, and some at the 4 inch length.
   The original directions called for a wooden ring behind the wreath to help create the perfect circle, but my husband just glued the rulers directly to the black circle and it worked out perfectly!
   I love how it turned out, and my husband is now getting requests from other teachers at my school to make them one : )  Thank goodness I married a crafty man, because Lord knows I did not inherit that gene from my crafty mother! 


Leveling Your Library

Hi everyone,
   If you are like me, you have a ton of easy reader books.  Over the years I have amassed quite a collection.  Some I inherited when I took over the classroom, some were donated by other teachers or parents, and some were purchased by myself.  I have a great collection, but it contains books from many different publishers, and it can be a challenge to find out where that book fits in the guided reading spectrum.

  This summer I decided to gather up all of my easy readers, and organize them by level, in an effort to improve my guided reading groups.

   This first thing I did, was research how the different guided reading levels such as Fountas and Pinnel, Lexille, DRA, etc. were all related.  I found this great chart below, just click on the picture, and it will take you to the PDF

   I used the scholastic website for their Leveling Resource Guide as well, and then I started to look into individual publishers.  I looked up things like BOB books, and books from the Sunshine Group.  Basically whenever I picked up a new book I just flipped it over to see who the publisher was.  I then typed that publishers name into a Google search with something like this:

BOB books guided reading levels

  Up would pop all of the information that I would need for the levels.  Some books required more research than others, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by the number of books that I could find the correct level for.

  Inevitably there were some books who's level that I could not find, so I used this guide to help me place them in the correct category

  I bought some colorful book bins at the Dollar Tree and made some cute polka dot labels to go along with them (Freebie below).

  I'm sending book bags home with the kids this year as well, so I am hoping that this new organization will help the students and I pick the just right books for them!

Grab your book bin labeling freebies below:


Curriculum Planning Guide

Hi Everyone,

     Today I thought I would start buckling down and getting my self organized for next school year.  Every year, before school starts, I like to sit down and write out my plan for the year.  After I am done I always feel like that plan should last me for a couple of years, but it never does! Every year I get new ideas on how to structure my lessons differently, and engage my students more.  Today I sat down with my curriculum books and all of my favorite writing implements.

Am I the only one that needs to buy new pens whenever there is a planning project to be done?  Or when a new planner is bought?  It's an obsession, but it makes me happy : )

I usually go one subject at a time, and plan out the whole year.  I try to match up my themes as much as possible.  I print out all of my check off sheets for the standards to make sure that I am covering them all at some point during the year.

This is just a quick example of what it looks like:

It's nothing fancy, but it help keep me on track for the year.  It shaves time off my lesson planning because most of my planning has already been done, I just need to plug in the activities that we will be doing to learn that particular standard.

If you would like my free planning pages I have included a link to my TPT store in the image below.  There are two sets of calendars, one for public school, and one for private.  The private school one includes a column for religion curriculum planning as well.




Guided Reading Organization

  One of my goals this summer was to revamp my guided reading program.  After reading these two great books I got some good ideas!

I decided to implement the strategies that would be most beneficial to my students.  To help me get organized, I created this pack:

Everything you need to start guided reading

Here is how I set-up my guided reading binder:

I like to organize my guided reading groups based on fruit names.  I have these little cards that go into our center pocket chart that let the students know which group I am working with.  In my folder I have a separate tab for each fruit group that I can keep their group observation forms in.  On the left hand side of that tab I have a list with students who are in the group, and this list changes frequently throughout the year as the students progress and move on to different levels.

Next I have numbered tabs that correlate to my students classroom numbers.  In each of these tabs I keep their personal testing information, such as a letters known inventory, running records, sight word mastery sheets, observation notes, etc.

These tabs are followed by my Concepts about print inventory list and my reading, comprehension, and vocabulary strategy sheets.  I also have sheets for digraphs and initial and final blends.

Sight word list and fluency phrase lists follow the strategies.  I have lists going all the way up the third grade for both of these.  These are just suggested lists of what word order to teach your students.  Under these tabs I also have the sight word and fluency mastery sheets.  I use these to keep track of which sight words and fluency phrases my students have mastered (after 6 times of writing it correctly).

Next I have my sound boxes that the students use with their magnetic letters.  I have 2, 3, and 4 sound box pages.

These are followed by my observation form originals for each guided reading level.  I also have a tab that contains my guided reading correlation lists.  This just has different resources I have found on the internet about how to level my classroom library, and how all of the different leveling systems compare.

Lastly I have my alphabet charts that the students can practice matching up their magnetic letters to.  I got this chart from Marsha over at A Differentiated Kindergarten.  Click on the picture, and it will send you to her awesome blog post about guided reading, where you can download the freebie.

We'll see how this new system works, and I will update you throughout the year to let you know what best practices I find in the process.